Who wants to get married?

While many older singletons are not keen to marry, the survey found that the majority of Gen Y singles were keen to tie the knot.
While many older singletons are not keen to marry, the survey found that the majority of Gen Y singles were keen to tie the knot.

We're keen to find life partners but not so interested in marriage, according to a new study that uncovers the nation's dating habits.

The RSVP Date of the Nation report, published this week, has found that while many of us hope to find a life partner, the majority of single adults in Australia are not interested in marrying.

But while just 41 per cent of singles would like to get married, there are marked differences both between the sexes and between generations - and tradition still shapes many young Australians' approach to love lives. Younger generations are keener to tie the knot than older singles.

Sixty-seven per cent of Gen Y respondents said they want to get married, compared to 39 per cent of Gen Xers and just 12 per cent of Baby Booomers.

Overall, 66 per cent of the 3325 survey respondents - weighted to represent the population - told the dating site that they were happy with being single, though 58 per cent revealed that they "would like to spend the rest of their life with the one."

In another category, while just 56 per cent of singles overall see marriage as a "valid and important social institution", 67 per cent  of Gen Y - birthdates falling roughly between 1980 and 2000 - hold the same view, falling to 54 per cent for Gen X (1960 to 1980) and only 44 per cent for Baby Boomers.

We may be becoming more progressive and open to options beyond marriage, but there is one difference between the sexes that appears to uphold every Hollywood stereotype going: women want to get married more than men.

On average, by our calculations, 9.7 per cent more single women than men want to spend the rest of their lives with the one, see marriage as a valid and important institution and want to get married.

As much as many singles may not want to tie the knot, there is still social pressure to do so, with 52 per cent reporting that they feel expected to marry and 55 per cent saying they feel they are expected to have children.

John Aiken, Fairfax-owned RSVP's resident relationship expert and psychologist said that the results show "that singles still place social importance on marriage and that many are feeling the pressure – especially women."

He points out that the priorities of age-groups vary, with younger adults counter-intuitively more likely to be more aligned with those in their 50s.

"They are likely to be more focused on individual pursuits and not as concerned about biological clocks or social conventions. For Gen Y, this comes from an idealism and attitude of ‘it’s all ahead of me’ and for the Boomers, many feel they have ‘been there, done that’."

Relationship and sex expert Jacqueline Hellyer goes one step further, telling Life & Style that she believes the institution of marriage is "good and strong" but that "it is the Baby Boomers who have lost their naivety." Divorce has put many off approaching the aisle again.

"[The popularity of marriage] goes in swings and roundabouts. One of our innate drives is to reproduce and create a fairly stable environment in which to do that."

She said the stats confirm her "belief that when you're younger, marriage is more important to you."

Having a child out of wedlock is taboo-free for many, too, 35 per cent of the surveyed singles would have a child before marriage.

"There's just so much more choice available now and people have more mature attitudes towards their relationships," said Hellyer. "You don't have to get married to have a family but younger people are still looking to marriage as an important option."

For Kylie Dunjey, a counsellor with Relationships Australia, the data reflects what she sees as a change on the continuum of life’s big moments. "The milestones are the same: we have sex, move in, have children and then marriage is inserted around that, in a different place to where it once was."

Still, she says, the figures - and her daily work - show that there is hope amongst single people to find the stability and security of the right person. "Those things are still attractive – if you want to start a family, there is a higher investment in getting married."

Whether built on a youthful idealism or perhaps as a counter-response to Gen X and Baby Boomers’ failed marriages (a theory needing more data at this stage), says Dunjey, "there is definitely still a desire for healthy, long term relationships."

Living in sin may not be as frowned upon as it once was, but neverthless, the church is keen to celebrate the report.

A spokesperson from the Archdiocese of Sydney said: "In fact the table that shows 41 per cent of all Australian singles want to get married also very clearly shows there is great optimism about marriage with the younger generation than perhaps the often jaded and cynical baby-boomers.

"Despite continuing claims that marriage is a thing of the past, the figures show with Gen Y and Gen X there are many who still [want] a lifelong and exclusive commitment."

This story Who wants to get married? first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.